There are lots of wine descriptors but only 12 to 14 that are the most common. The reason I am introducing you to them is so that you can learn the ones you like the best. This will help define the wines that you like best. This does not mean you should try every wine you can and then come back to the one that smells and tastes the best to you afterward.
Graphite is a common descriptor, especially for red wines. You don’t hear the term used very much when tasting white wines. Decanter magazine defines graphite as tasting like pencil lead or lead-like minerality.
Where does the taste come from? Some folks claim it comes from a wine’s contact with wood during oak maturation. Another explanation is that it comes from the terroir of where the grapes are grown – especially if there are slate soils. It is recommended that to understand how graphite smells you should sharpen an HB pencil and smell that.
Most of the time when you get a hint of graphite in a wine’s aroma, it is coming from a more expensive wine. For example, a Cabernet that is aged in toasted French oak barrels is often going to have graphite aromas. The cost of toasted French Oak barrels is a bit higher than standard American Oak barrels, buying these raises your cost to produce the wine and thus more cost per bottle.
Honey is often a descriptor found in dessert wine tasting notes. Dessert wines tend to be more dense and syrupy. You will find honey aromas mostly in white wines. They come across as “sweet honeyed smells” or a “beeswax-like quality.”
Honey aromas and taste are prominent in such white grapes as Chardonnay, Riesling, Sémillon and Chenin Blanc, but not usually in the popular Sauvignon Blanc grape. Honey describes ripe wines, which usually have a sweet aroma or taste of honey. The next time you are drinking one of the white wines I mentioned here, see if you can detect the aroma and taste of honey.
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